Homeless and Rough Sleeping Prevention Strategy

Contents

Introduction

Section 1 of the Homeless Act 2002 requires Local Authorities to publish a Strategy based on a review of homelessness in their area.

Homelessness is a complex problem with multiple causes; tackling it requires flexible solutions. We need to work with statutory, voluntary and charitable organisations, as well as the private sector, to deliver effective and early intervention and prevention. 

Households experiencing, or threatened with homelessness are often trapped in cycles of deprivation that impact on their health, emotional well-being and life chances. The effects on children within households experiencing or threatened with homelessness can be lifelong. Many homeless households are ‘hidden’ as they may have access to some sort of shelter, but lack a stable, long term, settled home often moving from one form of temporary accommodation to another with consequent impact on health and wellbeing and children’s education.

The term homeless tends only to be applied to those who are found to be rough sleeping; this is in fact rare compared to those who are threatened with homelessness. The most significant reason in Bassetlaw for the threat of homelessness comes from the Private Rented Sector. The Government has made it easier for Private Landlords to give Notice to tenants via Section 21 Notices. We want more stable homes and are looking at this within the Housing Strategy.

The vision for the Homeless Prevention Strategy is:

To offer early help, support and intervention to ensure people in Bassetlaw do not become homeless. We want to eradicate rough sleeping by helping to enable the life skills needed for individuals to access stable accommodation.

National Context

There has been an increase in homelessness and rough sleeping across the UK over the past 10 years. In 2015/16 Local Authorities reported responding to the threat of, or actual homelessness, for 327,390 households, compared to 254,320 households in 2009/10. Similarly, rough sleeping has increased by 102% over the same period. The total number of households in temporary accommodation in January 2017 was 75,740, up 10% on a year earlier (DCLG Housing Statistical Release, March 2017), whilst 4134 people were documented sleeping rough in Autumn 2016, rising 16% in 12 months (DCLG, Housing Statistic Release, January 2017).

It is clear that continued work is desperately required. On average, homeless people die at just 47 years old (Crisis), whilst the number of rough sleepers with mental health problems in London has risen from 700 in 2010 to roughly 2500 in 2017.

Welfare Reform has had a significant impact on homelessness; changes to the benefit system have been described as the most radical for 60 years. Under Universal Credit, which is being phased in throughout 2017/18, working-age tenants will receive a single monthly payment directly from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This will include their support for housing costs. This represents a significant change from the previous arrangement, under which many social tenants have their Housing Benefit paid directly to their Landlord. Consequently, there is concern about the impact this may have on rent arrears and resulting homelessness.

There has been a reduction in Housing Benefit for Spare Bedrooms in Social Housing where it has been determined that the occupants have more bedrooms than they need. Households’ under occupying by one bedroom have their Housing Benefit reduced by 14%, for two or more bedrooms the reduction is 25%. There is a concern about the potential on-going impact on rent arrears and eviction, especially where tenants are trying to meet the benefit shortfall from their own financial resources. The spare room rebate affects 916 tenants in Bassetlaw, 775 of which are Council tenants.

Nationally support services have been cut for all Local Authorities; this has left gaps in areas such as community mental health support and support for those with vulnerability issues such as substance miss-use. The lack of help for the vulnerable can increase the numbers of individuals who find it difficult to access accommodation and maintain a stable home.

The changes to welfare benefits and cuts to support services have been felt by low income families across the Country. In areas of disadvantage the financial struggle to maintain a home has become challenging for many households.

Government Response to Homelessness Figures

The Homeless Reduction Act 2017

The Homeless Reduction Act will come into force in April 2018. The Act will amend the Housing Act 1996 Part 7. The Government seeks to address homelessness across the UK by clearly defining to Local Authorities what is expected of them. There is an indication that services such as free advice and support differ greatly from region to region. The Government wants deal with this issue and see Local Authorities duty bound to assist those in need regardless of priority or local connection.

The Homeless Reduction Act will extend the provision for ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 days to 56 days; granting a much earlier period of assistance and intervention. All Local Authorities will have a duty to provide advisory assistance. This assistance will need be given regardless of eligibility and will need to be tailored to reflect the circumstances of applicants. The creation of Personalised Housing Plans is aimed at giving a much higher level of assistance to applicants seeking help.

The new legislation is designed to enable Local Authorities to place a greater focus on better prevention, so that more people receive help before they reach a crisis, increase early intervention to get rough sleepers off the streets quickly, and give greater specialist support for entrenched rough sleepers.

There will be a duty to prevent and relieve homelessness with referrals taken from other public bodies such as the NHS and Police.

In 2016 the Government granted £50K to Homeless Prevention via the ‘Trailblazer’ Fund across the UK; showing commitment to ending rough sleeping.

The Homeless Reduction Act means there is likely to be a significant increase in the demand for homeless service’s and this must be reflected throughout the Prevention Strategy. The increase in demand will have financial implications for the Housing Needs Service, particularly in the provision of temporary accommodation. Every case will require the creation of a Personalised Housing Plan which will pose a huge drain on Officer time.

Local Strategic Context

At local level the Homeless Prevention Strategy links to the new Council Plan, (2017 to 2020), and focuses on the ambition: Enhancing Home and Place, under the following priorities; 

  • Support the delivery of a wide variety of homes across all sectors, (town & rural areas). 
  • Work with the private rented sector to improve the quality of homes.
  • Use our full range of powers to protect local people and the place they live.
  • Support the health & well-being of local people through early intervention and initiatives.

To achieve these aims we will work extensively with partners, both statutory, voluntary and charitable, as well as with the private sector to deliver early intervention and prevention against homelessness. We will aid customers to sustain or find affordable accommodation.

The previous Homeless Strategy devised in 2012 has seen some success. The numbers of rough sleepers have reduced significantly in 2016. However, Government cuts to funding has seen many of the partnerships that were in existence fold as charities such as Frame-work have cut their provision in Bassetlaw by more than 50% due to lack of funding.

The demand for affordable accommodation has continued to rise; in such the key priority in the Housing Strategy is the provision of affordable and social rented accommodation.

The Council has 6820 properties across Bassetlaw with 2450 people listed on the Housing Register. The demand for family accommodation and affordable single person accommodation continues to increase, particularly in central areas such as Worksop and Retford. On average families in Bassetlaw are five times below the average income needed to buy a property; (Source Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2014).

This creates a number of challenges with in Bassetlaw in the prevention of homelessness.

Social Trends Which Impact On Homelessness in Bassetlaw

Instability in the private rented sector

The highest proportion of households who present as homeless in Bassetlaw come from privately rented accommodation. New Government legislation has meant that it is much easier for Landlords to end tenancies via a Section 21 Notice.

The end of 2017 will see the introduction of Universal Credit across Bassetlaw. Landlords will no longer receive rental payments directly from the DWP but will have to collect payments directly from tenants. In addition, the further reduction in the benefit cap will reduce the amount of Local Authority Housing Allowance paid to families. This will make many privately rented properties unaffordable to those claiming housing support.

Many Landlords’ will no longer consider tenants on benefits due to the changes in Welfare Reform.

Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017 there were 64 homeless cases due to service of a Section 21 Notice by a private landlord.

Financial difficulties

A key issue for the people of Bassetlaw is access to affordable finance. We know from the Strategic Housing Market Assessment that the average earner in the District is five times below the earnings needed to be able to afford a mortgage. There are high numbers employed within the manufacturing industries; often on zero hours’ contracts, who simply cannot afford to buy a home. This signifies the need for affordable rented accommodation. 

The changes to welfare benefits have also had a negative impact on many families. The cases involving rent arrears due to loss of employment have increased. The high cost of bonds and increasing rents in the private sector make accommodation for low paid workers hard to source. Financial hardship remains one of the most prevalent reasons people present as homeless in Bassetlaw.

Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017 there were 23 homeless cases due to financial hardship.

Relationship breakdown

Marital breakdown and domestic violence continues to be a source of instability; add in financial pressures and many households suffer a breakdown.

Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017 there were 10 homeless cases due to domestic violence and a further 19 cases of full acceptance due to non-violent relationship breakdown.

Young people and vulnerable adults

Changes to benefits are making it unrealistic for young people to live independently of their families. Young adults are staying at home for much longer, putting a greater strain on families both financially and mentally. This leads to a breakdown in families often with the young adult seeking to leave or being removed from the home environment. Young adults, especially those who are vulnerable through mental health issues, learning disabilities and substance misuse issues often find themselves ‘sofa surfing’ with no way of finding permanent accommodation.

Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017 there were 41 homeless cases where family/ relatives/friends could no longer accommodate.

Requests for Assistance in Bassetlaw

There are a number of reasons people seek help with their housing situation; almost half of all enquiries come from families.

Shown below are the top 5 reasons people in Bassetlaw seek assistance from the Housing Needs service;

1. Termination of Assured Short -hold Tenancy- Section 21 Notice served. 21.8%
2. Relationship breakdown 12.2%
3. Family/friends no longer willing to accommodate 11.3%
4. Relationship breakdown - domestic violence 7.7%
Rent arrears - private sector & Council tenant 7.3%

The table below shows the ‘trends’ in homelessness in Bassetlaw, including the number of cases accepted as homeless in the past 12 months.

Homeless Trends in Bassetlaw

Homeless Trends from 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017.

Number of cases prevented from being homeless 143
Number of cases accepted as homeless 75
Number of cases placed in temporary accommodation 54
Average time taken to re-house homeless clients 17 days

Of those who approached Bassetlaw District Council for assistance between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017, 53 were families and 104 were single households.

There were 143 households prevented from becoming homeless; this is due to housing needs providing:

  • Assistance in resolving housing benefit issues
  • Assistance to remain in current accommodation
  • Rent arrears/mortgage arrears intervention
  • Negotiation with family and friends

Rough Sleeping in Bassetlaw

Numbers of recorded rough sleepers has fallen in Bassetlaw. In 2016 the number was 10; as of 16th November 2016; (Source Homeless Snapshot Survey). This is just a ‘snapshot’ in time figure and we know that numbers vary greatly over time.

The number of ‘visible’ rough sleepers has increased, particularly with reports relating to the town centre in Worksop. Out-reach services are in place via Framework to locate and identify rough sleepers. This service also provides access to a mobile nurse for those with health conditions which, may or may not, relate to rough sleeping.

HOPE continue to support rough sleepers in Bassetlaw, offering emergency accommodation and food to those who seek assistance. Bassetlaw District Council has a system of referrals to signpost rough sleepers to support services.

During the winter of 2016 Housing Needs and the Community Safety Unit assisted in funding additional beds available at HOPE to reduce numbers left ‘out in the cold.’

Entrenched rough sleeping and ‘sofa surfing’ is a difficult issue to resolve as it requires a high level of support for those affected. The individuals concerned often need to commit to a lifestyle change which can be difficult for them to maintain.

The Housing Market Impact on Homelessness in Bassetlaw

Supply of Housing – The housing stock has grown by 7.6% over the last 10 years in Bassetlaw. This is the second highest growth in the housing market area increasing by 1.6% since 2008; (Source SHMA 2014). However, the number of Council properties available to let has continued to reduce over recent years. Between April 2014 and March 2015, 667 homes became available for letting; only 397 of these were available to general needs groups. The waiting list for properties remains around 2500; demand outstripping supply. Many tenants who would like to downsize from family accommodation cannot find suitable smaller homes they wish to move to; effectively ‘tying up’ family units.

The lack of affordable rental accommodation continues to be an issue even though the private rental sector has grown significantly in Bassetlaw; currently representing just over 12% of the housing market. The average rental cost for a 2 bed property is £445.00 per calendar month, unaffordable to many single income households. (Source: SHMA 2014)

The average house price in urban areas such as Worksop and Retford is £136,286 rising to £216,354 in rural suburbs such as Blyth, Misterton and Tuxford. This makes it virtually impossible for those on low incomes to consider home ownership. (Source SHMA 2014).

There are currently 16 licenced Houses of Multiple Occupation within Bassetlaw. This type of ‘shared accommodation’ is often the only affordable option to single people on low incomes but is in relative short supply.

Housing Associations – The level of social renting in Bassetlaw currently stands at 15.9%. However, it is becoming more difficult to re-house those accepted as homeless into Housing Association properties despite their legal obligation to assist Local Authorities. Housing Associations are becoming more averse to ‘risk tenancies’ often assuming applicants who have previously been homeless will go on to create housing management issues. Many Housing Associations now insist on a month’s rent in advance, for those on low incomes, this is unrealistic.

Empty Homes – The number of recorded empty homes currently stands at 746 across the District. Environmental Health monitors and works to identify the owners of empty properties in an attempt to bring them back into occupation. Bassetlaw DC also administers the Empty Homes Grant to assist property owners to bring homes back into use. Very few property owners approach the Authority for assistance and identifying and contacting home owners continues to be a challenge. Unless a property is in severe dis-repair and becomes a danger to the public it is not possible to take enforcement action. 

During the year 2016 - 2017 there were 236 properties that had been empty for 2 years or more. Surveys of the long term empties and interventions taken by the Housing Standards Team within Environmental Health, ranging from; informal letters, advice, enforcement action (Legal Notices) prosecution and enforced sales resulted in the following outcomes:

Empty Homes figures 2016/17

Homes back in use 7
Homes on the open market 10
Homes under renovation 19
Informal letters sent 38
Advice & guidance given 2
Legal Notices served 35
Prosecutions  1
Enforced Sales 0
Total 112


At the start of the year 2017 the number of properties that have been empty for 2 years or more stands at 139. A total of 97 properties have been brought back into use; reducing the numbers significantly from the previous year. This is due to interventions by the Housing Standards Team, the change of use from domestic to commercial property and from single family housing to houses of multiple occupation.

Measures to tackle and improve the housing supply in Bassetlaw are outlined in the current Housing Strategy (2017 -2020). 

Conclusion

A combination of factors within the housing market effects the ability to access suitable, stable accommodation for those facing homelessness in Bassetlaw; single person accommodation in short supply; high numbers of workers unable to afford to buy a home and an unwillingness from Landlords to consider tenants who are claiming benefits. 

The private rented sector is under huge strain to resolve issues relating to housing supply, however, Government legislation has made it easier for Landlords to end Assured Short Hold Tenancies via Section 21 Notice. This is the single most prevalent cause for people to present as homeless in Bassetlaw. There are no plans for this legislation to be changed and numbers presenting as homeless for this reason continue to increase.

In addition, the introduction of Universal Credit and the benefit cap is further reducing the options open to those on very low incomes when trying to source suitable accommodation. Bonds and rent in advance required by Landlords are simply unaffordable to many.

People are forced to live at home or with friends and family for much longer as they cannot afford independent living. This puts a huge strain on families both financially and mentally. There is a lack of support for families facing relationship breakdown and reports of domestic abuse, from both men and women, are increasing.

These are the key social factors which impact on homelessness in Bassetlaw.

In addition to this, from April 2018 the Homeless Reduction Act will become law. This Act does not aim to tackle any of the social aspects of homelessness but will focus on ‘prevention’ and ‘relief’ duty. All Council’s will have to assist those faced with, and presenting as homeless, regardless of eligibility, priority need or local connection. Other Public Bodies will be able to make referrals to any Local Authority the applicant should choose.

This legislation will place a much greater strain on the Housing Needs Service and was fully considered throughout the creation of the Homeless Prevention Strategy Delivery Plan.

The working group studied all the homeless trends and likely impact of new legislation in Bassetlaw and agreed the following;

Key Priorities

Our ultimate aim is to be a District where homelessness is prevented from occurring. The Delivery Plan outlines how we will work towards reducing homelessness in Bassetlaw. We want to offer a wide range of improvements through collaborative working to prevent homelessness wherever possible.

The key themes of the Homeless Prevention Strategy are reflective of the priorities contained in the Housing Strategy for Bassetlaw and are based on the findings of the review group; they are aimed at tackling the issues raised within the local strategic context;

  • We will aim to enable the delivery of housing that meets people’s needs across the District, (Housing Strategy).
  • We will help people access the support they need in homeless circumstances.
  • We will work to improve the Private Rented sector in Bassetlaw to make this a housing option of choice, (Housing Strategy).

The key priorities in homeless prevention are:

  1. Work to end rough sleeping in Bassetlaw.
  2. Provide good quality information on all housing options.
  3. Review the current provision of temporary & move on accommodation.
  4. Work in partnership to assist individuals & families facing homelessness who are in financial crisis.
  5. Assist more people to sustain private rented accommodation.
  6. Explore options available for supported living particularly for young and vulnerable people to live independently.

The Homeless Prevention Strategy will be monitored by the review group to ensure delivery against the key priorities.

The challenge within the current economic climate is significant, however the Homeless Prevention Delivery Plan is realistic in what can be achieved.

Priority 1 Working to end rough sleeping in Bassetlaw

How we will deliver the Priority 1 within the Homeless Prevention Strategy;

Although numbers sleeping rough have reduced in Bassetlaw in 2016 we acknowledge that this is one of the most destructive forms of homelessness.

We will; 

  • Investigate the ‘no second night out’ protocol which states that any eligible person rough sleeping who seeks assistance will be provided with temporary accommodation.
  • Seek commitment from all partners such as the Police and NHS to assist in reducing the number of rough sleepers.
  • Monitor and record all known instances of rough sleeping in partnership with Framework Outreach service & HOPE.
  • Work with partners to provide advice and support for identified rough sleepers, addressing issues of vulnerability.
  • Continue to contribute to the Framework outreach service established as part of the Trailblazer funding in 2016.
  • Continue to offer the homeless drop in service; extending provision via on-line services & sign posting.
  • Provide advice and assistance based on individual circumstances; as per the Homeless Reduction Act 2017, create Personalised Housing Plans.

Priority 2 Provide good quality information on all housing options.

How we will deliver the Priority 2 within the Homeless Prevention Strategy;

The working group recommended that information be provided to all those facing homelessness.

We will;

  • Offer intervention at the earliest point of contact.
  • Review all current Housing Needs leaflets and ensure all information provided is in a clear understandable format relevant to customer need.
  • Develop a new homeless prevention pack.
  • Place more information on the BDC website to encourage self-service and increase sign-posting opportunities.
  • As per the Homeless Reduction Act; create Personalised Housing Plans that are clear and understandable to the client.
  • Work pro-actively and in partnership to develop a Financial Inclusion Policy for Bassetlaw. This will seek to reduce debt related homelessness.

Priority 3 Review the current provision of temporary accommodation.

How we will deliver the Priority 3 within the Homeless Prevention Strategy;

Offer the best support possible to those who need immediate accommodation.

We will;

  • Monitor the trends within homelessness to identify what type of accommodation needs to be provided.
  • Ensure that all eligible people have access to emergency accommodation.
  • Review current position a provide temporary accommodation managed by BDC as part of the Housing Needs Service.
  • Fully investigate the option of providing ‘move-on’ accommodation for families with complex needs who require support.
  • Explore options for temporary accommodation provision with partner agencies.
  • Ensure clients in temporary accommodation receive appropriate advice & support to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.

Priority 4 Work in partnership to assist individuals & families facing homelessness who are in financial crisis.

How we will deliver the Priority 4 within the Homeless Prevention Strategy;

Offer support for people facing financial difficulties to reduce the risk of them losing their homes.

We will;

  • Develop a new Financial Inclusion Strategy in partnership with A1 Housing to assist in the management of financial hardship in Bassetlaw. 
  • Address the issue of under-occupancy where tenants are affected by ‘spare room subsidy’ by offering advice on housing options via A1 Housing.
  • Ensure that all new allocations are affordable to incoming tenants.
  • Advise new households on the availability of advice services and signpost appropriately.
  • Promote the use of 2Shires Credit Union to new households.
  • Deliver Personalised Housing Plans, as per the Homeless Reduction Act 2017, to offer appropriate financial advice based on the needs of the client.
  • Work with the Economic Development ‘Intervention Group’ to assist in financial management advice for low paid workers.
  • Develop a partnership approach to financial advice via the Financial Inclusion Forum.

Priority 5 Assist more people to sustain private rented accommodation.

How we will deliver the Priority 5 within the Homeless Prevention Strategy;

In 2016/17 the most common reason for presenting as homeless was the loss of private rented accommodation. 

We will; 

  • Encourage homeless applicants to consider private rented accommodation; ensuring suitability and affordability.
  • Extend the offer bond & rent in advance schemes to secure sustainable accommodation for homeless applicants.
  • Build a database of preferred Landlords to work with homeless applicants.
  • Offer tenancy support to newly housed private rented tenants for the first 3 months of the tenancy to assist sustainment.
  • Work directly with Landlords whose tenants are effected by Welfare Reform changes including Universal Credit.
  • Work closely with Environmental Health to assess and improve property standards in the private rented sector.
  • Continue to investigate options on Selective Licensing as a method of raising standards in the private rented sector.
  • Establish a Landlord Forum to allow the sharing of information with the private rented sector.
  • Work closely with Environmental Health to reduce the number of empty homes across the District.

Priority 6 Explore options available for supported living particularly for young and vulnerable people to live independently.

How we will deliver the Priority 6 within the Homeless Prevention Strategy;

The review group found there is a high number of vulnerable young people presenting as homeless due to failed tenancies and family breakdown. 

We will; 

  • Extend provision for housing advice sessions in colleges and secondary schools. 
  • Develop a ‘Homeless Prevention Information Pack’ aimed at the under 25 age group.
  • Offer mediation within families to sustain accommodation wherever possible.
  • Explore the possibility of offering supported accommodation in partnership with Nottingham CC and Registered Providers.
  • Offer tenancy support to homeless applicants under the age of 25 who have previously failed a tenancy.
  • Ensure people living in rural communities have equal access to housing & homeless services.
  • Investigate a partnership approach in the provision of accommodation for young people with support needs; New Roots Housing Project.

The Homeless Prevention Strategy will be monitored and reviewed on a quarterly basis via the Strategy Working Group to ensure delivery against the key priorities. 

Bassetlaw District Council will be working with all appropriate partners in the delivery of the Homeless Prevention Strategy; this will include Public Bodies, Housing Providers, Charitable Organisations, Voluntary Organisations, and other Local Authorities. An exhaustive list has not been produced to avoid exclusion. 


Last Updated on Thursday, September 17, 2020